Chemeketa: My Personal Sanctuary

Allison - Lake Oswego, Oregon
Entered on May 7, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

As the windy road framed with mountains and valleys takes us into beautiful surroundings, I feel a sense of awakening and refreshment. Rolling the window down, I can smell the distinct, dry scent of sagebrush and pine trees that infuse the mountain-fresh air. The vegetation lacks dampness at this time of year in early August and we can often smell a faint scent of a forest fire only miles away. Something about it reveals an eerily comforting smell; you almost feel guilty for having somewhat of a likeness to it. Within this setting rests a place that has remained a second home to my family and friends over the years. The Sawtooth Mountain country primarily remains a local secret, popular by word of mouth and self-discovery. Located in Idaho, about an hour from Sun Valley, are the Sawtooth Mountains. Chemeketa, a campsite we visit annually, is my sanctuary and I believe everyone should discover their own that eliminates the distractions of modern life in order to find understanding of what is important to them personally.

Unveiling complete solitude from the world outside, we call this place “our own private Idaho.” It lies four miles down a dusty, unpaved road that reveals a lush valley surrounded by mountains, forest, creeks, and open grasses. The entire campground is ours for the week, no one else but family and friends for miles. The Sawtooth Mountains constitutes something precious for all of us; it provides a sacred campsite where countless memories lurk and an environment that keeps us coming back for more every summer, year after year. This is the only place that we really see one another and spend time together as family and friends; I cherish the time I get to spend life-long friends that I would consider my family. Here we can take time to catch up on each other’s lives and reminisce about the past in a place separate from our busy lives at home.

No electric hook-ups or bathrooms with running water can be found in Chemeketa. Instead, there are outhouses, a creek, and a campfire pit. This getaway identifies far from the classification of luxury; however, that is what makes it so spectacular. It provides an escape from the regular day-to-day lifestyle, allowing me to slow down and live more simplistically. We can easily get caught up in our efficient, fast-paced lifestyles. But by being in this secluded environment and taking away the technologies and comforts that we have become dependant on, it helps me realize what is truly important: enjoying the company of those that surround me.

The serrated Sawtooth Mountain edges and peaks live up to their name even from afar. The distinct nature of these mountains is intimidating when tackling a hike amidst them. However, you are always rewarded in the end with a breathtaking view of an alpine lake or mountain range panorama. There is nothing like reaching the top and celebrating the achievement of a challenging climb or braving a polar-dive into the freezing lake, in the company of friends and family. To me, a hike is meditating because I get a chance to ponder issues or whatever comes to mind.

With all the beauty and solitude it withholds, Chemeketa and the surrounding Sawtooth Mountains illuminate just one example of a sacred place for a certain few. Many others will find another sacred place to them personally. Relaxation, solitude, gathering thoughts, or spending time with the ones you care for are just a few motivations. A place like Chemeketa that brings old friends and family together in an annual stetting, supplies happiness in the most natural form.